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May 23Liked by Naomi Kanakia

Martin Luther said something like "We read for those who cannot read." I think, at the time, there were a lot of people who couldn't read. So he was saying that reading was a kind of labor you do on behalf of those people. (Maybe it was based on that medieval idea of society divided into farmers/fighters/prayers or whatever. Everybody doing their assigned role in the world.) Everybody I know can read now, but very few of my educated friends read books at all anymore. I kind of feel like my reading is *for them* in some way? I'm digging around in old boxes that nobody has looked into in a while. I usually find something interesting that a friend would like, someone who wouldn't find it without me looking for it. Or I'm just rationalizing conspicuous consumption: I only share things that indirectly increase my social status, not things that make me look worse.

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I like that quote! Yes, at times I think--is my job to be some kind of sage? Like, am I an expert of some sort? It makes me deeply, deeply uncomfortable. I always feel like I'm writing to / for fellow readers--but realistically, not that many people I write to are gonna pick up WINGS OF THE DOVE. Nor can I truthfully say that reading the book would be the best use of their time. So then why write about it? That's not a question I've totally answered.

I post about books that make me look worse =] I think it's an odd sort of flex tho to be like, yes I read Wings of the Dove AND Jack Reacher! Not sure what book would truly look bad for me--maybe something abysmally au courant and middlebrow.

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The cool thing about Substack is that you're writing for other writers. They understand.

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deletedMay 23·edited May 23
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I've realized there's precious little status to be had from reading books. But it's not zero status--there's definitely at least a bit to be had. And we've done okay for ourselves in that regard!

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I am probably less online than 90% of people, but I do have a few hot button issues that pull me back on once in a while, and I get stuck there. I've paid for, and unsubscribed from, about a dozen sub stacks over and over. Connecting and disconnecting from twitter is at least free, and more important. anyway, I've semi decided that the only way for this to work permanently is to wholly disconnect at once. By which I mean I have to stop reading or hearing anything about today's world. Because if I don't, I can unplug almost everywhere but if I see even one "triggering" event I run the risk of losing to the online vortex once more. I even thought this might be a good idea for a short story or magazine article. I'd withdraw so entirely that I wouldn't even know who was elected president, if we went to war, if disease were eradicated and I am now immortal. I'd just live my daily life, read my classics, and pretty much live like everyone did before the 20th century.

It sounds too much like a stunt, and to some extent it would be in that I'd have to tell my friends and family to not tell me the election results etc. But I might try it regardless of its "stuntiness" because it really might be life changing. And if it's a failure, twitter is only one logon away.

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That's the dream, isn't it =] Just seems impossible on a practical level! Like from 2007 to 2012 I only used a dumb-phone, but nowadays I routinely encounter situations (i.e. the gym or getting into my storage space or coworking space) where I need a smartphone app to access something. And then the smart-phone itself just plots to share news with you. For instance my google chrome on my smart phone figured out I liked books so on my homepage it started showing me book news, including lists of "most anticipated books" coming out this month! Exactly the thing I least want to see!

What would be less impossible, but still impossible, would be to work to not get triggered so you don't get sucked back in to the net. But really we just live in a fallen state and there's no escape =]

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Unfortunately that's all true. The only "advantage" I have over you is I have no followers, career or anything other than some friends or family (I'm old). You are naturally drawn in on certain subjects, reviews etc whereas I have to interject myself. I even find myself commenting on some twitter feed when I'm at my lowest, despite the fact that nobody could possibly care about what someone with zero non-bot followers replies on the 973rd comment on a thread. I dunno, I'm very tempted to give it a try, and just hope you stick with Henry James instead of the politics of the day! thanks

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I'm a new subscriber and loved reading this piece.

Particularly enjoyed your 'novel' idea of connecting and communicating with real live people, in the real world!

Online is certainly overwhelming and time consuming to sift through the mountain of stuff and find your tribe.

Pleased I found you and congratulations on your book - from a fellow published author!

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Today I learned the word filipendulous and started reading The Golden Bowl (the only late James I haven't yet read). I think Philip Pendulous might make a good pseudonym, but it sounds vaguely dirty.

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I learned it ages ago when I was looking up the words that'd won the scripps spelling bee =] but it felt like the moment to use it!

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I loved everything about this. What do you think of people who read 100+ books a year?

Since I follow a lot of bookstagram types, I am mostly disgusted with the discourse (ie people who dont like audiobooks are thinly veiled ableists!) or rampant overconsumption (ie compulsively buying new, overpriced releases). And it's weird how people romantize long TBRs, often of purchased books, and building large personal libraries.

But I only have so many opinions about this because I follow these people on IG (and book people on Threads are even worse) and become irritated. If I unfollowed these people, I would never know about the empty politic that is reading based solely on identity. And none of the books I read, or plan to read, are gonna garner me much attention or praise.

Also, video games falls into some of this same territory.

But I like your musings about spending more time in the real world! But I think it's difficult to escape the trappings of the political internet when so much of that thinking directly influences offline people and events.

The world keeps forcing us to be online!

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I've never understood the reader-as-identity thing. Just seems like it's trying a bit too hard? If reading really makes you more sensitive, loving, intelligent, etc than other people, then aren't those the good things, instead of the reading itself? But my reading is so unfashionable--if I was reading trendier books I might understand it more. As it is, when I post about a book it usually shuts down discussion instead of provoking it.

Personally, I too keep a log of books I read and used to post it online, but stopped around fourteen years ago (when I was applying to MFA programs), because I was lying in my personal statements pretending to have read professors' books when I hadn't, and I got paranoid that someone would see. Then I never started publishing my complete lists again because I didn't want friends to see I hadn't read their books--and then there were always some embarrassing (i.e. conservative or pornographic) books that might creep on.

Definitely don't get the TBR impulse--who would want to be so beholden to themselves wrt what they're reading? When I'm looking for my next book, I just look around to see what I'm in the mood for.

Yeah I found it so strange when video games began to be a huge part of peoples' identities? Like...I guess it makes sense considering how much time people spend playing them--but I've spent at least ten thousand hours in my life playing video games (that estimate actually feels very conservative, given that I've put 500 hours into Borderlands 2 on Steam alone), and I just never felt that connected to gamer as an identity. But I still remember when my first boyfriend discovered my big sleeves of game CD-Roms, from my high school and college days. He was shocked--it was like he saw me completely differently. He was like--you're one of us!

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